Independent Record: Ad Watch: Most of the claims against Tester are misleading or false

This 60-second spot by the 60 Plus Association, criticizing Sen. Jon Tester, first aired in Montana two weeks ago.

Ad content: Former singer/actor Pat Boone, a longtime Republican Party and conservative activist, and a narrator talk about the federal health care law.

Script: Boone: “Hi, friend, I’m Pat Boone. Last year a lot of promises were made regarding health-care reform. But America’s seniors know that forcing a bill through Congress when Americans overwhelmingly opposed it would be disastrous. And we were right.”

Narrator: “President Obama’s health care law cuts $500 billion from Medicare and creates a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. It’s like a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare in order to pay for new government programs.”

Boone: “This IPAB board can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatment so Washington can fund more wasteful spending. Your choices could be limited and you may not be able to keep your own doctor. Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years. But Washington politicians like Jon Tester are ignoring the problem, putting their own re-elections first. Call Senator Tester. Urge him to support real Medicare reform and protect our seniors. Tell him unaccountable bureaucrats should never have the power to deny you the care you deserve.”

Analysis: Most of the claims in this ad are misleading or false. Medicare is the federal health-insurance program that covers those 65 and older. The new law’s net “cuts” to Medicare are actually $430 billion over 10 years, reducing its spending growth. They come mostly by reducing payments to private insurers that sell a product that includes Medicare coverage and by reforming payments to health-care providers. It’s true that these savings will be used to finance other parts of the health law.

It’s possible these Medicare cuts could lead to some providers accepting fewer Medicare patients, thus limiting access to care. However, the intent is to reduce unnecessary spending and strengthen Medicare’s long-term financial strength.

The IPAB board to which Boone refers is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which in 2014 will begin recommending ways to reduce Medicare spending if it exceeds targeted growth. Its recommendations will take effect unless Congress passes an alternative.

The IPAB members will not be “bureaucrats,” but physicians and other medical professionals, economists and consumer and senior citizen representatives. The president appoints the members, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. It also will have a 10-member consumer advisory council.

The law says IPAB cannot submit proposals that would ration care or change Medicare benefits or eligibility. A spokeswoman for 60 Plus argues that IPAB’s proposals could cut payments to providers, who might stop taking Medicare patients, thus “rationing” care.

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